Haverford soars, Penn stumbles in new college ranking

Posted: August 04, 2011

The college-ranking game continues with stat-based findings from Forbes released on the heels of Princeton Review's snarky hierarchies based on student opinions.

You won't find categories such as "Reefer Madness," and "Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians" from Forbes or U.S. News & World Report, which will release its verdicts online Sept. 13.

But you will find plenty of conclusions to second-guess.

Last year, Forbes declared Swarthmore the seventh best college, one spot ahead of Harvard and well ahead of Haverford (No. 14), the University of Pennsylvania (36), and Bryn Mawr (38). Pennsylvania's next highest finishers: Bucknell (56) and Lafayette (61).

What a difference a single year makes.

This year, although again Williams College is again No. 1, followed by Princeton, Haverford jumps up to No. 7, just behind Harvard; Swarthmore falls to 16; Lafayette leaps to 33; and Bucknell (48) surpasses Penn (lowest in the Ivy League at 52) and Bryn Mawr (54).

Doesn't that read more like the movement of teams in a college football poll?

Yet Forbes' criteria didn't seem to change: post-graduate success (30 percent), student satisfaction (27.5), debt (17.5), four-year graduation rate (17.5), and competitive awards (7.5).

Note that, other than awards, no measure, such as SAT scores, considers how smart one's fellow students might be.

Confusing consumers even more is how much other ratings disagree. Last year, U.S. News ranked Penn tied for fifth with Stanford among "National Universities" and ahead of several other Ivies - Dartmouth, Brown and Cornell. Swarthmore was third among "National Liberal Arts Colleges."

Or take the case of Drexel University. U.S. News ranked it a highly respectable No. 86, easily in the top half of national universities. Forbes ranks it at 583 - ahead of only 67 schools.

Penn State was No. 47 among national universities for U.S. News, 182 overall for Forbes.

Princeton Review, by the way, ranked Penn State No. 1 for "Everyone Plays Intramural Sports" and "Financial Aid Not So Great," and in the Top 10 for "Best Career Services," "Best College Newspaper," "Happiest Students," "Jock Schools," "Lots of Beer," "Party Schools," "Students Pack the Stadiums," "Best Health Services," and "Best Athletic Facilities."

For more information, go to www.forbes.com or www.princetonreview.com.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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